Why You Should Teach ELA in Thematic Units






When I first started teaching, I did what lots of ELA teachers do: I started at the beginning and then went from there. In other words, I taught literature chronologically.  What better way for students to understand the comprehensive sweep of literature written in English, right?  Well, it often felt like I was just stringing together a list of texts, and, as happens to many people, I never really got to the stuff that was written in the last 100

Read more

5 Reasons To Teach With Mentor Texts






Starting a writing unit by examining great examples of the kinds of writing we’ll be doing is one of those ideas that I seem to forget and remember over and over again.  Maybe it’s because I rush through writing plans, anxious to get to the assignment so that students can start working.  Maybe it’s the effort of looking for good examples.  Perhaps it’s the mistake of believing that my explanation is plenty and students shouldn’t need anything more.  Or possibly

Read more

4 Units to Achieve Back-To-School Goals 






As a teacher, you might have just a few goals for the beginning of the school year: set the tone for your classroom; inspire students to work harder; establish rigor and expectations; teach students to think independently.  Oh, and don’t forget win over students by showing them how much fun they’ll be having this year, and, when you teach high school, getting to know over 100 new people as fast as possible. Seems simple, right? Every year, I have tried

Read more

How I Teach My End-of-the-Year Poetry Project






The last few days before summer vacation can be a slow painful countdown—or they can be an opportunity to try something new, get students working independently, and give teachers a break.  It’s not that teachers are sick of their students (okay, maybe just a little bit) it’s that we’re all ready for something a little bit different.  For me, that sometimes means finishing off the term with an engaging poetry unit.   My End Of The Year Poetry Unit is

Read more

A List of Poems For Every Unit






One resource that I have always wanted as a teacher is a list of poems arranged by theme so I could easily find a great piece to add to any unit.  Well, here’s that list. If you see a link in the title to the poem, that’s because I sell a resource for teaching that poem.  (Think about it as a great choice if it’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday night and you’d rather go to bed than sit up

Read more

How To Teach Poetry






How To Teach Poetry April is National Poetry Month, and while I could happily spend hours analyzing a poem with a group of seventeen-year-olds, I know that not everyone feels that way. Poetry is not always an easy sell.  Students might not have much experience with poetry, or they don’t like it, or they think that it’s going to be too hard.  But by the end of my introductory unit, I have won (almost) all of them over.  They look

Read more

14 Questions for Examining Mentor Texts (Of Any Kind)






Once students are comfortable reading and analyzing mentor texts in order to improve their own writing, it’s nice to be able to let them work through a text independently.  Still, they might appreciate some scaffolding or reminders of what to look for.  These fourteen questions will work for just about any kind of writing—from cutting edge journalism to revealing personal essays to experimental poetry.    For a printable version of this handout that you can use tomorrow as well as

Read more

Poem of the Week: American Dreams, Struggle, and Unity






I don’t think that I will ever be able to hear the words “great” and “America” together again without cringing.  And yet, I want to continue the discussion about how we can all achieve the American Dream. I guess that what I most want my students to understand about the place they live is this:  It’s complicated.  It’s not really about whether America was or ever will be great—it’s about looking at what does work and looking even more closely

Read more

Classroom Management: Why I Love a Good Jigsaw






Students moving around the room, talking to each other, sharing information, and teaching their peers—it’s sort of a teacher’s dream, and it’s what happens when I do a jigsaw activity with my students. I use a jigsaw in three of my content-heavy resources: my Fake News and Digital Literacy Unit, my Growth Mindset Unit, and my Elements of Poetry Unit. The basic idea of a jigsaw is that students learn a piece of the content and then teach that to

Read more

Poem Of The Week: Opium Dreams and Author’s Intent






You know you have a good poetry lesson when it grabs students in the first days of school.  One of my favorite and most effective poetry lessons of all time is my two-day lesson on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment.”  It’s a great lesson because I get to employ some of my favorite comprehension strategies, and because I get students writing and thinking about big questions early on.   (You can

Read more
1 2